Second Century Church Services

The following description of a second century church service was written by Justin Martyr (100 AD -167 AD), who was born in Old Testament Shechem about the time that the Apostle John died. He was one of the most able Christian men in that period of time. He wrote a Defense of Christianity that was addressed to the Roman Emperor and died a martyr’s death at Rome. To show how Christianity had spread in the second century he wrote, “there is no race of men where prayers are not offered up in the name of Jesus.”

“On Sunday a meeting is held of all who live in the cities and villages, and a section is read from the Memoirs of the Apostles and the writings of The Prophets, as long as time permits. When the reading is finished, the president, in a discourse, gives the admonition and exhortation to imitate these noble things. After this we all arise and offer a common prayer. At the close of the prayer, as we have before described, bread and wine and thanks for them according to his ability, and the congregation answers, “Amen.” Then the consecrated elements are distributed to each one and partaken of, and are carried by the deacons to the house of the absent. The wealthy and the willing then give contributions according to their freewill; and the collection is deposited with the president, who therewith supplies orphans, widows, prisoners, strangers, and all who are in want.”

Another ancient writer, Pliny The Younger* (61 AD – 112 AD), provides another description of an early Christian church service in his letter to the Roman Emperor Trajan (98 AD – 117 AD) concerning when to put Christians to death. Pliny, as governor of Bithynia (part of modern day Turkey) and an enemy of Christianity wrote the following in the early second century:

“But they affirmed that this was the sum of their fault or error, that they were accustomed, on a stated day, to meet together before day, to sing a hymn to Christ in concert, as to a god, and to bind themselves with a solemn oath not to commit any wickedness —but on the contrary, to abstain from theft, robbery, and adultery —also, never to violate their promise, nor deny a pledge committed to them. These things being performed, it was their custom to separate: and to meet again at a promiscuous [meaning composed of all sorts of persons], innocent meal….”

He also described in the same letter how wide the influence of Jesus was in that region and the effect persecution was having on idol and emperor worship:

“…I have recourse to you for advice; for it has appeared to me that the subject is highly deserving of consideration, especially on account of the great number of persons whose lives are put into jeopardy. Many persons of all ages, sexes, and conditions are accused, and many more will be in the same situation; for the contagion of this superstition has not merely pervaded the cities, but also all villages and country places; yet it seemed to me that it might be restrained and corrected. It is matter of fact, that the temples which were almost deserted begin again to be frequented**; and the sacred solemnities which had been long intermitted are again attended; and the victims for the altars are now readily sold, which, a while ago, were almost without purchasers. Whence it is easy to conjecture what a multitude of men might be reclaimed, if only the door to repentance was left open.”

Bless our Father in Heaven for His early servants who were faithful under persecution and passed down to us the words of the Apostles, Paul and the other New Testament writers so we could know Christ and be saved!

Rejoice and be glad, your Savior is coming again!

Carl

*Pliny, The Elder, his uncle, died attempting to rescue people in Pompeii after the Mount Vesuvius eruption in AD 79.

**Though some had denied Christ and returned to idol and Emperor worship, many chose martyrdom instead of denying Christ and others escaped persecution. In 200 years, Christianity would be a recognized and accepted religion in the Empire though persecution would return later under other Emperors.

What Constrains Us?

For the love which Christ has [for me] presses on me from all sides, holding me to one end and prohibiting me from considering any other, wrapping itself around me in tenderness, giving me an impelling motive, having brought me to this conclusion, namely, that One died on behalf of all, therefore all died, and that He also died on behalf of all in order that those who are living no longer are living for themselves but for the One who died on their behalf….

(II Corinthians 5: 14-15 Wuest Expanded Greek Translation (Emphasis added))

“What such should do, for whom Christ died; namely, that they should live to Him. This is what Christ designed, that those who live, who are made alive unto God by means of His death, should live to Him that died for them, and rose again for their sakes also, and that they should not live to themselves, v15.

We should not make ourselves, but Christ, the end of our living and actions: and it was one end of Christ death to cure us of this self-love, and to excite us always to act under the commanding influence of His love. A Christian’s life should be consecrated to Christ; and then do we live as we ought to live when we live to Christ, who died for us.”

(A Commentary of the Whole Bible – Matthew Henry, 1700s)

In Matthew 23:25, the Lord rebukes the scribes and Pharisees for being self-indulgence. Will He have to rebuke us, His children, for our excessive or unrestrained gratification of our appetites, desires or whims? Let us be diligent to examine ourselves and repent of this sin, if we find ourselves guilty of it.

Let us thank Him for His great love for us, which was revealed on the Cross, and rejoice in it.

May His mercy and grace be abundant to you in this New Year!!

Carl

When Thou Risest…..

(The following is an excerpt from a tract written by Reformer John Wycliffe (1324-1384); hence, the ole English vocabulary. Hope you are built up and encouraged by the words of this precious saint. Carl)

“First, when thou risest, or fully wakest, think upon the goodness of thy God; how for his own goodness, and not for any need, he made all things out of nothing, both angels and men, and all other creatures, good in their kind.

The second time, think on the great sufferings and willing death that Christ suffered for mankind. When no man might make satisfaction for the guilt of Adam and Eve, and others more, neither any angel might make satisfaction therefore, then Christ, of his endless charity, suffered such great passion and painful death, that no creature could suffer so much.

 Think the third time, how God hath saved thee from death and other mischief, and suffered many thousands to be lost that night, some in water, some in fire, and some by sudden death, and some to be damned without end. And for this goodness and mercy thank thy God with all thine heart, and pray him to give thee grace to spend in that day, and evermore, all the powers of thy soul, as mind, understanding, reason, and will; and all the powers of thy body, as strength, beauty, and thy five senses, in his service and worship, and in nothing against his commandments, but in ready performance of his works of mercy, and to give good example of holy life, both in word and deed, to all men about thee.

 Look afterward that thou be well occupied, and no time idle, for the danger of temptation. Take meat and drink in measure, not too costly, nor too lickerous, and be not too curious thereabout. But such as God sendeth thee with health, take it in such measure, that thou be fresher in mind and understanding to serve God. And always thank him for such gifts.

 Besides this, look thou do right and equity to all men, thy superiors, equals, and subjects, or servants; and stir all to love truth, and mercy, and true peace, and charity; and suffer no men to be at dissension, but accord, if thou canst, in any good manner.

Also, most of all, fear God and his wrath; and most of all, love God, and his law, and his worship: and ask not principally for worldly reward, but in all thine heart desire the bliss of heaven in mercy of God, and thine own good life and think much of the dreadful doom of pains of hell, to keep thee out of sin; and on the endless great joys of heaven, to keep thee in virtuous life; and according to thy skill teach others the same doing.

 In the end of the day, think wherein thou hast offended God, and how much, and how oft, and therefore have entire sorrow, and amend it while thou mayst. And think how many God has suffered to perish that day, many ways, and to be damned everlastingly, and how graciously he hath saved thee; not for thy desert, but for his own mercy, and goodness, and therefore thank him with all thine heart. And pray him for grace that thou mayest dwell and end in his true and holy service, and real love, and to teach other men the same doing.”

Excerpt from A SHORT RULE OF LIFE, FOR EACH MAN IN GENERAL, AND FOR PRIESTS, AND LORDS, AND LABOURIRS IN SPECIAL, HOW EACH SHALL BE SAVED IN HIS DEGREE Reformer John Wycliffe (1324-1384)  (paragraph structure added)               

How The Christian Life Works.

“I used to ask God to help me. Then I asked if I might help Him. I ended up by asking God to do His work through me.”

Hudson Taylor (21 May 1832 – 3 June 1905, British Christian missionary to China, founder of the China Inland Mission, now OMF International)

Source: Berean Call

As The Shining Moon and Glittering Stars

Even as the shining moon and the glittering stars give the most light and adorn the blue expanse of heaven the most gloriously, in the darkest nights, so it was also after A. D. 1000, as regards spiritual matters, which concern the honor of God and the salvation of the souls of men.

For, about the year 1000, as well as many years before and after but particularly then, the world lay sunken, as it were, in an arctic, six-month’s night, through the thick, and palpable darkness, which had arisen, with heavy vapors of superstitions, from the Roman pit. Yet, notwithstanding the state of the times, some undefiled persons, as bright heavenly signs, and stars, began to shine forth the more, and to let their light of evangelical truth illumine the dark nights of papal error. Yea, some, like the polar star, served as a sign to sail by; I mean, to accomplish safely and in a godly manner, through the turbulent waves of perverted worship and human inventions, the journey to the heavenly fatherland. Others, like the morningstar, or the lovely, blushing Aurora, announced the approaching day; we mean, they pointed to the true day of the Christian and evangelical worship of God, and revealed it, as much as they were able, to those who sat in the darkness of error.

We will no longer speak by simile; what we mean is this: That there were men in those dark times, who maintained God’s truth, in various points, according to the needs of that time, and bore witness to and sealed it not only with the mouth, but with the deed, yea, with their blood and death.

Martyrs Mirror – from chapter: AN ACCOUNT OF THOSE WHO SUFFERED IN THE ELEVENTH CENTURY: SUMMARY OF THE MARTYRS IN THE ELEVENTH CENTURY – page 265 -266, compiler T.J. Van Braght, 1660

May we, like the martyrs of the 1100s, stand for God’s truth as found in the Holy Scriptures; not only with the words of our mouth but with our actions, for the commandments and teachings of men continue today to produce a spiritual darkness that blinds the souls of men to eternal destruction. Let us be light in the darkness and guide others to the only safe harbor of Jesus, the Savior and Lord of Lords.

Carl

Thou art Coming

“Thou art coming, O our Saviour!
  Coming, God’s anointed King!
Every tongue Thy Name confessing,
  Well may we rejoice and sing.
Thou art coming! Rays of glory
  Through the veil Thy death has rent,
Gladden now our pilgrim pathway,
  Glory from Thy presence sent.
”Thou art coming! Thou art coming!
  We shall meet Thee on Thy way;
Thou art coming! We shall see Thee,
  And be like Thee on that day.
Thou art coming! Thou art coming!
  Jesus, our beloved Lord; 
Oh, the joy to see Thee reigning,
  Worshipped, glorified, adored!
”Thou art coming! Not a shadow,
  Not a mist, and not a tear,
Not a sin, and not a sorrow,
  On that sunrise grand and clear,
Thou are coming! Blessed Saviour,
  Nothing else seems worth a thought:
Oh, how marvelous the glory,
  And the bliss Thy pain hath bought.
”Thou are coming! We are waiting 
  With a ‘hope’ that cannot fail,
Asking not the day or hour,
  Anchored safe within the veil.
”Thou are coming! At Thy table
  We are witnesses of this,
As we meet Thee in communion,
  Earnest of our coming bliss.”

Frances Havergal

In The Heavenlies [Ephesians Bible Study] --H.A. Ironside, LITT.D

Awake Up

“Awake up righteously, and sin not; for some have no knowledge of God: I speak this to move you to shame.” 1st Corinthian 15:34 (KJV)

Paul is writing to the Corinthian believers about the Corinthian believers. The “some” are not the unbelievers on the streets of Corinth who do not know God and run to idols but Paul is addressing those in the church who were teaching the error of no resurrection of the believer’s physical body.

Amid the assembly of believers there were those who had “no knowledge of God”.  Sounds like an oxymoron, a Christian believer with no knowledge of God.  In the Greek “no knowledge” does not mean “mere ignorance” (agnoia) but “reprehensible ignorance” (Vines).  They were not just lacking facts, but they were guilty before God for their own sloth (spiritual apathy and inactivity) and slight of God.

How do we slight God? They were guilty of treating God with indifference, treating His revealed will and ways as something of truly little importance, and pursuing their spiritual growth and relationship with Him in a careless manner.

The Amplified Bible puts it this way:

“…for some of you have not the knowledge of God [ you are utterly and willfully and disgracefully ignorant, and continue to be so, lacking the sense of God’s presence and all true knowledge of Him]. I say this to your shame.”  (emphasis added)

Denying the resurrection was giving evidence of this type of ignorance in some of the people.

Are we guilty of slighting God?  Are we living our lives in a manner that displays indifference to God’s will and ways, considers them of little importance and pursuing our spiritual growth and our Kingdom of God responsibilities in a careless manner?  Are we “gathering” with the Lord Jesus or “scattering”?

Not everyone in the Corinth Church believed this error. The “you “ in the latter part of the Scripture refers to the whole body of believers in Corinth. Paul is saying that because they pride themselves on their wisdom and intelligence, the spread of this error in their midst “displayed their culpable inability to recognize the character and power of God” (Henry). For this, the whole body should be ashamed, experience grief or inward pain because they now realized that they did not measure up to what they thought they were, in God’s eyes.

And herein is the danger of our walking in pride.

 In the first half of the Scripture Paul tells them “Awake up righteously, and sin not…”.

Their pride, rooted in their perceived wisdom and intelligence, had put them in a state of spiritual stupefaction. A state where the saint experiences a profound spiritual drowsiness or stupor. They had drunk deeply of the poison, their delusional pride, by comparing themselves among themselves and measuring themselves by themselves and not measuring themselves against God’s standard. Oh, how we need to heed Paul’s admonition in 1st Corinthians 10: 12 “…let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall”.

This produced in the church a state of spiritual lethargy where they were devoid of spiritual energy and interest. They had grieved (Ephesians 4:30) and quenched (1st Thessalonians 5:19) the Holy Spirit with their pride.  He is the Giver of the desire and will “to work for His good pleasure”.  (Philippians 2:13) His ministry was stopped by the pride in their lives. Now the Church was not a place of spiritual edification but a place of danger for the saints.  God now opposed them (James 4:6)!!!

Therefore, Paul commands them “Awake up righteously and stop sinning…”. The NASB says “Become sober minded as you ought and stop sinning,”. The Amplified Bible says “Awake [from your drunken stupor and return] to sober sense and your right minds, and sin no more.”

 Matthew Henry (1700s) says:

“Rouse yourselves, break off your sins by repentance: renounce and forsake every evil way, correct whatever is amiss, and do not by sloth and stupidity, be led away into such conversation and principles that will sap your Christian hopes, and corrupt your practice.”

This is what the Holy Spirit is telling the Corinthians through the pen of Paul.

What saith we? Do we see ourselves in Paul’s rebuke of the Corinthian believers? Oh, Father God remove the blinders of pride from our understanding that keeps us in darkness.

Do we need to wake up, to rouse ourselves, to become sober minded about our spiritual state?  Have we quenched and grieved the Holy Spirit in our life?  Have we stopped the rivers of living water (John 7:38) that are supposed to flow out of our innermost being and replaced it with a muddy slough of arrogance, self-indulgence, and worldly ways from our carnal nature.

Are we slighting God?

If the rapture of the believers happened today and we, in the twinkling of an eye, went from earth to His presence, what would be in our hand, in our mind and in our heart?  Would we be ashamed of what He caught us doing, thinking about, and craving for?

 It is going to happen one day. Let us be sober minded. Get right (with God) and ready (to stand in His Presence).

Believer, the Judgement Seat of Christ is also drawing closer. Are you ready to stand before your Savior and give an account of what you have done in this earthly life? Are we ready to receive our rewards or will we suffer loss ….for eternity?

Will He have to “wake us up” for the momentous occasion?

May Paul’s words to Timothy move us to self-examination in the light of His Word:

“Pay close attention to yourself…” (1st Timothy 4:16)

With repentance, love, and concern for the Church,

Carl

Heavenly Minded

“Those who are the most heavenly minded are also of most earthly use.”

William Wilberforce (24 August 1759 – 29 July 1833, British politician, philanthropist, and one of the leaders of the movement to ban the slave trade).

Source: Berean Call

Fellowshipping With Your First Love

“But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” Lord Jesus in Revelation 2:4

I have a book, Deeper Experiences of Famous Christians, that has a story about Billy Bray, one of God’s quaint vessels. He would offend some Christians today, but he had a real experience of salvation and he did not know what to do except express himself. They made fun of Billy Bray and laughed at him. “Why, Billy Bray, you are so happy, so joyous, all the time. Suppose you discovered you are not saved at all, you are really not a child of God, and suppose when you die you go to hell?” Billy Bray said, “Well, I suppose if I die and I discovered I am not a Christian and I go to hell, Jesus has been so real and wonderful and precious to me in life I will just have to shout all the way to hell. When I get down to hell I will have to run up and down the streets of hell shouting ‘Hallelujah, praise the Lord.’ The devil will come over to me and say, ‘Billy Bray, we cannot stand that down here; we cannot put up with that. We will just have to send you to heaven.” That is the joy of salvation.

Exploring 1.2.3 John – Jerry Vines (1989)

Dear born again Christian, how is your joy level right now?

 Is it full and overflowing? Maybe it has been a while since you had fellowship with the Joy-Givers, our Heavenly Father and His Mighty Son Jesus, your First Love. There is real, deep joy around their throne and, as His child, He wants our joy to be made complete. Why not “wash your feet” in the precious blood of Jesus (John 13:3-10) and get rid of that unconfessed sin in your life which prevents your fellowship with the Joy-Givers. After that, spend some time in prayer and Bible readings in His presence. Read I John 1: 4-10 for example and think on the awesome privilege you have in being called into fellowship with the Creator and Sustainer of all things, including you.

 In your First Love’s presence there is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11). Return to your First Love today! Do not be a carnal Christian who is running around on his First Love, loving the devil’s world and their old, stinking, fleshly, sinful ways.

Instead, may rivers of living water, the Holy Spirit (John 7:38), flow out of you today and every day and may the people around you be watered by this spiritual, life-giving, river of God.

Carl

Credulity Or Berean?

…We must be very careful to examine the words and fruits of those who speak in the name of God. Credulity is dangerous.  We can be led astray and lose our souls.

It is said that when Alexander the Great went to war against Darius, King of the Persians, he took a bath and caught cold. His friend, Philip, a physician, cared for him. Just at that time, Alexander received a letter from his most faithful commander advising him to be suspicious of Philip and not to take his medicine because the physician was in collusion with King Darius to poison him. Philip had allegedly received money and the promise of Darius’ sister for his wife. When the physician entered the room with his medicine, Alexander took the glass in one hand and with the other drank while Philip read. Then Alexander said to him, “I have confidence in your medicine and in your friendship.” He regained his health.

This example is often quoted in sermons to suggest that if we can have such confidence in man, then we can have even more in God –our greatest Friend.

It is my firm conviction that, assuming Alexander really responded in this manner and the story is not legend, he was misguided. Many kings and rulers have been poisoned by their physicians. Many of Stalin’s comrades were killed in this manner.

Jesus taught, “Beware of men” (Mt. 10:17). We must beware of men in material things, financial matters, and everyday affairs. Even more, we must not easily give our confidence when the eternal destiny of the soul is at stake.

If anyone desires salvation and sanctification, he might find a religious teacher who is trusted with speaking the oracles of God but be very choosy. 

The Oracles of God – Richard Wurmbrand, p.68-70

Brother Richard warns us that “credulity” is dangerous.  Credulity is the state of being credulous which is being gullible; ready to believe without proof.  Don’t be credulous.

 Be a Berean. Acts 17:10-11 tells us the brethren “sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea; and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so.

They were checking what Paul said about the Messiah against what the Old Testament Scriptures said.  They were not gullible. They wanted to see it in the Scriptures for themselves.

It is prudent for us to read our Bible daily asking the Holy Spirit to teach us the truth. He was sent to lead us into all truth. We need to let Him.

Read your Bible. Be a Berean!

God bless you and be wise!

Carl

Who Is Jesus?

Jesus died. He rose from the dead. And the world changed forever.

But what’s the significance of these events? Why did Jesus die, and what does His resurrection mean? How has the world changed?

When we think about someone’s death, we can’t really appreciate its significance unless we know who we’re talking about. The significance of Abraham Lincoln’s death can only be fully felt when we understand who Lincoln was—and the same goes for other historical figures. Their lives changed the world, and their death did too.

From a purely historical point of view, there’s no one in human history whose life changed the world more than Jesus. More biographies have been written about Him than any other person (Lincoln is second). Indeed, the original four biographies of Jesus, collected together in the New Testament gospels, are a large part of why the
Bible is the number-one-selling book every year. In fact, The New York Times Best Seller ignores the Bible; otherwise, it would top the list every week.

No one’s teaching has had a deeper impact on culture, politics, morality, justice, philosophy, and human character than Jesus Christ’s. Two thousand years later, He’s regularly quoted (consciously and unconsciously) even in our increasingly secular world. His moral teaching likewise forms the bedrock for billions around the world –such as the Golden Rule and the importance of compassion, forgiveness, and mercy. Indeed, Jesus continues to set a standard that our modern world fails to live up to.  How well do we love our enemies? Do we pray for those who persecute us?

And all of that is only taking into account the Jesus of history. What about when we consider who He was according to His own claims? According to Jesus and His first followers, He wasn’t an ordinary man. He was God’s appointed king who came in fulfillment of promises made centuries before. He came to reveal God to us through His own embodiment of the divine nature. He was, and is, God the Son, who by His own claim existed  from the very beginning. He’s the One through whom His Father created the entire cosmos – including the humanity of which Jesus Himself chose to partake. If these claims are believed, there can be no question that Jesus was the most significant man who ever walked the earth.

When we realize that the One through whom humanity was crafted died as a man, we begin to see the depths of this event. In fact, once we understand who Jesus is, we shouldn’t at all be surprised that He would rise again from the dead. The truly remarkable thing is that He died at all! How could the Author of life be put to death? How could the Creator be killed by His own creation?

The answer is love. As the Apostle John says, “God is love.” (I John 4:8) and the gift of His eternal Son is the ultimate demonstration of His love. Jesus chose to take up human life and to lay down His life so that we broken, rebellious, proud human beings might be brought into loving relationship with our heavenly Father –our Maker and our Judge. If Christmas celebrates God’s gift of Jesus into our world, Easter celebrates what that Gift came to do. He came to die that we might live. His death spells our life because of who He is. He’s God Himself come to us as one of us so that He might bring us home with Him.

If Christ’s death can only be appreciated by understanding who He is, so too His resurrection from the dead. Lazarus was raised from the dead (by Jesus), but his resurrection did not change the fate of humanity. So why did Christ’s change humanity? For starters, Lazarus had to die again one day. His resurrection didn’t permanently overcome death. It didn’t destroy death. But when Jesus was resurrected, He overpowered death. He conquered the last great enemy of humanity—death itself. That is why Jesus will never die again, unlike Lazarus. He rose victorious over death, and death no longer has any claim on Him. Death could literally not hold Him down.

While death still has its way with us, Jesus promised through Him death would not have the last word. No one who hopes in Jesus will stay dead. He promised that one day He’ll call each of us by name. He’ll call us out of our graves, and we’ll literally live again. Our bodies will be resurrected like His. Death will have no further claim on us. Death will die.

That is why that first Easter was the most important weekend in human history. God remade humanity in three days through the death and resurrection of one man. The ultimate man died the ultimate death so that our ultimate fate would be eternal life with Him.

This Easter let’s pursue Jesus, the One who first came in pursuit of us. 

Source: Con Campbell, vice-president of global content, Our Daily Bread

Dear Reader, this article was written for Easter but I encourage you to pursue Jesus today. If you do not know Him as Lord and Savior, ask Him today to save you from your sins, to forgive you, and become your Lord and Savior. He will not fail you or reject you.  Enter His rest and cease from your works to be good enough or religious enough to earn His favor.  We all are sinners in need of His mercy. He will not reject you.  Turn to the Living Son of God today and be saved for eternity.

All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.    Quote from Jesus — John 6:37

Carl

The Reformation Born 503 Years Ago Today

In 1517 a Dominican Friar named Johann Tetzel had been selling indulgences near Wittenberg to raise money for constructing Saint Peter’s in Rome. According to Tetzel, those who purchased an indulgence would receive remission of purgatory. Indulgences could also be purchased on behalf of dead relatives and friends. The punchline of Tetzel’s sermon was, “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.”

The sale of these indulgences infuriated Martin Luther, the professor of biblical studies at the University of Wittenberg, and he decided to hold a disputation with other faculty members on the subject. A professor interested in holding a disputation would nail the theses to be discussed on the cathedral door. Luther posted his 95-Theses on the great wooden door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, on October 31st, 1517.

Some of Luther’s points for discussion were: (1) “Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ in saying, “Repent Ye”, intended that the whole life of believer should be penitence”. (32) “Those who believe that, through letters of pardon, they are made sure of their own salvation, will be eternally damned, together with their teachers.” (37) “Every true Christian, whether living or dead has a share and all the benefits of Christ and of the Church, given by God, even without letters of pardon”.  (62) “The true treasure of the Church is the Holy Gospel of the glory and grace of God.”

Luther knew from his own repentance and conversion that paying an indulgence could not achieve forgiveness of sins. Shortly before posting the 95- Theses, Luther had begun studying the Greek New Testament, and his studies persuaded him that the Greek word for repentance, metanoia, meant a change of heart, not mere performance of outward works, as theologians of his day defined it.

Luther wrote the 95-Theses in Latin, intending them to be discussed by scholars, not circulated among the populace. But as Luther himself acknowledged, “A fortnight they flew all over Germany.” Translated into German and sold as far away as Rome, the 95-Theses became much more than a University exercise.

For the next two decades, Luther enjoyed seeing the Reformation grow. Many regions in Germany accepted the evangelical doctrines that Luther and other reformers discovered in the Scriptures. Luther lived to see a second generation of evangelicals sing the hymns he had written, read his German translation of the Bible, and learn his catechism from their early childhood.

Throughout his life he preached and taught God’s promise of redemption to the repentant sinner. On his deathbed he prayed, “O Lord Jesus Christ, I commend my poor soul to Thee. O Heavenly Father, I know that, although I shall be taken from this life, I shall live forever with thee. God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth on him should not perish but have everlasting life. Father into Thy hands I commend my spirit.”

Luther died on February 18, 1546, at the age of sixty-two in Eisleben, the city where he was born. As word of his death spread to Wittenberg, bells tolled, and people crowded the streets, wanting to pay their last respects to their leader.

On Monday, February 22, 1546, accompanied by caravan that included his wife, Katie, his four children, and a throng of his followers, Luther’s casket was born through the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, on which, more than twenty-eight years before, the young monk had nailed his theses.

Reflection

Little did Martin Luther realize the forces that would-be set-in motion by the posting of his 95-Thesis. He merely felt it necessary to speak out against the error of his day. He was willing to stand up and be counted for truth and God used him to change the world. Do you ever feel that you should speak out against error? There is no predicting how God will honor your faithfulness.

They should gently teach those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will believe the truth.     II Timothy 2:25

Source: The One Year Christian History – E. Michael and Sharon Rusten

Hypocrite vs True Christian

“The hypocrite is like the waterman*, that looks one way and rows another; the true Christian like the traveller, that has his journey end in his eye. The hypocrite soars like the kite**, with his eye upon the prey below, which he is ready to come down to when he has a fair opportunity; the true Christian soars like the lark, higher and higher, forgetting the things that are beneath.” A Commentary On The Whole Bible – Matthew Henry (1721)- Vol. 5, page 81

“If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Paul in Colossians 3: 1-3

Carl

*The person rowing a boat ** Eagle-like bird of prey feeding predominately on fish

Have A Desire For God?

Desire is not merely a simple wish; it is a deep seated craving; an intense longing, for attainment. In the realm of spiritual affairs, it is an important adjunct to prayer. So important is it, that one might say, almost, that desire is an absolute essential of prayer.

A sense of need creates or should create, earnest desire. The stronger the sense of need, the greater should be the desire, the more earnest the praying. The “poor in spirit” are eminently competent to pray.

Hunger is an active sense of physical need. It prompts the request for bread. In like manner, the inward consciousness of spiritual need created desire, and desire breaks forth in prayer. Desire is an inward longing for something of which we are not possessed, of which we stand in need –something which God has promised, and which may be secured by an earnest supplication of His throne of grace.

Desire is the will in action; a strong, conscious longing, excited in the inner nature, for some great good. Desire exalts the object of its longing, and fixes the mind on it. It has choice, and fixedness, and flame in it, and prayer, based thereon, is explicit and specific. It knows its need, feels and sees the thing that will meet it, and hastens to acquire it.

Spiritual desire, carried to a higher degree, is the evidence of the new birth. It is born in the renewed soul:

As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.”

The absence of this holy desire in the heart is presumptive proof, either of a decline in spiritual ecstasy, or, that the new birth has never taken place.”

Bless are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.”

These heaven-given appetites are the proof of a renewed heart, the evidence of a stirring spiritual life…spiritual desires belong to a soul made alive to God. And as the renewed soul hungers and thirsts after righteousness, these holy inward desires break out into earnest, supplicating prayer.

One might well ask, whether the feebleness of our desires for God, the Holy Spirit, and for all the fulness of Christ, is not the cause of our so little praying, and languishing in the exercise of prayer? Do we really feel these inward pantings of desire after heavenly treasure? Do the inbred groanings of desire stir our souls to mighty wrestlings? Alas for us! The fire burns altogether too low. The flaming heat of soul has been tempered down to a tepid lukewarmness. This, it should be remembered, was the central cause of the sad and desperate condition of the Laodicean Christians, of whom the awful condemnation is written that they were “rich, and increased in goods and had need of nothing,” and knew not that they “were wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind.”

Again: we might inquire–have we that desire which presses us to close communion with God, which is filled with unutterable burnings, and hold us there through the agony of an intense ands soul-stirred supplication? Our hearts need much to be worked over, not only to get the evil out of them, but to get the good into them. And the foundation and inspiration to the incoming good , is strong, propelling desire. This holy and fervid [i.e. very hot] flame in the soul awakens the interest of heaven, attracts the attention of God, and places at the disposal of those who exercise it, the exhaustless riches of Divine grace.

The dampening of the flame of holy desire, is destructive of the vital and aggressive forces in church life. God requires to be represented by a fiery Church, or He is not in any proper sense, represented at all. God, Himself, is all on fire, and His Church, if it is to be like Him, must also be at white heat. The great and eternal interests of heaven-born, God-given religion are the only things about which His Church can afford to be on fire. Yet, holy zeal need not to be fussy in order to be consuming. Our Lord was the incarnate antithesis of nervous excitability, the absolute opposite of intolerant or clamorous declamation, yet the zeal of God’s house consumed Him; and the world is still feeling the glow of His fierce, consuming flame and responding to it, with an ever-increasing readiness and an ever-enlarging response. ” Source: The Necessity of Prayer – Edward M. Bounds, p. 44-48

Father, we praise your name. Please increase our desire for You. Set our souls aflame for You and Christ. Forgive us for our coldness and lukewarmness. Forgive us where we have let the “worry of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desire for other things” choke out your word in our lives and make us unfruitful. Cause us to be consumed with your zeal so that we may be pleasing to you and effective in witnessing to this lost and adulterous generation. We ask this in the precious Name of Jesus. Amen.